Puritans Vs. Protestants: What Is The Main Difference

By Paul King •  Updated: 10/09/23 •  14 min read

In the realm of religious history, the dichotomy between Puritans and Protestants has long been a subject of scholarly inquiry. These two groups, although stemming from the same theological origins, diverge in their beliefs, worship practices, and societal influence. By examining the historical context, doctrinal distinctions, and the roles of the church within these two factions, this article aims to shed light on the main differences between Puritans and Protestants. Through an objective and impersonal lens, this exploration promises to provide a comprehensive understanding of this significant religious divide.

The Puritans, known for their strict adherence to biblical principles, believed in the importance of personal holiness and religious purity. Their aim was to purify the Church of England from what they perceived as lingering Catholic practices. They sought to create a godly society based on the principles found in the Bible.

One biblical verse that resonated with the Puritans was 2 Corinthians 6:17, which states, ‘Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you.’ This verse emphasized the Puritans’ desire to separate themselves from anything they deemed impure or contrary to their interpretation of the Bible.

The Protestants, on the other hand, were a broader movement that emerged as a response to the Catholic Church’s practices and teachings. They protested against what they saw as corruption and sought to reform the church. The Protestant movement emphasized the importance of faith in Jesus Christ for salvation, as opposed to relying on religious rituals or the authority of the Church.

One notable biblical verse that influenced the Protestants was Ephesians 2:8-9, which states, ‘For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.’ This verse highlighted the Protestants’ belief in salvation by faith alone, without the need for additional works or religious practices.

To illustrate the differences between the Puritans and Protestants, let us turn to a biblical story. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus encounters a tax collector named Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus was despised by the Jewish community for his collaboration with the Roman authorities and his corrupt practices. However, when Jesus saw Zacchaeus, he called out to him and said, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today’ (Luke 19:5).

This story emphasizes Jesus’ inclusive and compassionate nature, as he reaches out to someone considered an outcast. This aligns more closely with the Protestant belief in the grace and love of God, which welcomes sinners and offers salvation through faith alone. The Puritans, however, may have viewed Zacchaeus with skepticism due to his sinful lifestyle and may have focused more on his need for repentance and transformation.

In conclusion, the main differences between Puritans and Protestants lie in their beliefs, worship practices, and societal influence. While both groups originated from the same theological roots, the Puritans emphasized personal holiness and sought to purify the Church, while the Protestants focused on faith in Jesus Christ for salvation and the reform of the Church. By examining biblical verses, stories, and historical context, we gain a deeper understanding of these differences and the impact they had on religious history.

Key Takeaways

Historical Background

The historical background of the Puritans and Protestants provides profound insight into the origins and development of their contrasting religious beliefs and practices. The Puritans, inspired by their faith in God and their commitment to the principles of the Bible, sought to purify the Church of England from what they perceived as remnants of Catholicism. As they embarked on their journey, they held steadfast to a strict interpretation of the Bible, stressing the importance of personal piety and moral conduct.

One tale that exemplifies the Puritans’ unwavering devotion to their beliefs is the story of Daniel in the lion’s den. In the book of Daniel, we learn of Daniel’s unwavering faith in God, which led him to defy the decree of King Darius and continue to pray to God despite the threat of being thrown into the den of lions. His faith was rewarded as God protected him from harm, showcasing the power of trust and adherence to divine principles.

Another biblical account that resonates with the Puritan’s commitment to religious freedom is the story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt. In their search for freedom and a land of their own, the Puritans, much like the Israelites, embarked on a journey to establish a new home where they could worship God according to their beliefs. Just as Moses received the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, the Puritans were guided by their interpretation of the Bible, which served as their moral compass and foundation for their society.

The Puritans’ dedication to religious liberty is profoundly evident in the Mayflower Compact, a document they crafted upon arriving in America. This compact established a form of self-government based on the consent of the governed, reflecting their belief in the importance of individual voices and religious freedom. This commitment to governance based on divine principles is reminiscent of the biblical passage in Proverbs 29:2, which states, ‘When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.’

Beliefs and Doctrines

Beliefs and doctrines of Puritans and Protestants showcase notable variations, rooted in the teachings of the Holy Bible. One significant difference lies in their understanding of salvation. The Puritans held a strong emphasis on the doctrine of predestination, which is supported by passages such as Ephesians 1:4-5, where it is stated, ‘For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love, he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ.’ This doctrine asserts that God has already chosen who will be saved and who will be damned, and that salvation is solely dependent on God’s grace, not on human effort.

On the other hand, Protestants maintain a more inclusive view of salvation, emphasizing the importance of faith in Jesus Christ as the means of salvation. Romans 10:9 states, ‘If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.’ This verse highlights the significance of personal faith in Jesus Christ for salvation.

Another difference between Puritans and Protestants can be seen in their views on sacraments. The Puritans, drawing from their interpretation of biblical teachings, rejected the use of elaborate rituals and sacraments, considering them as distractions from true spirituality. Instead, they emphasized the importance of heartfelt repentance and living a holy life in accordance with biblical principles. This is reflected in verses like Micah 6:8, which states, ‘He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’

In contrast, Protestants acknowledge the importance of sacraments such as baptism and communion as symbolic acts that represent the believer’s union with Christ. Matthew 28:19-20 records Jesus’ command to his disciples, ‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.’ This verse emphasizes the significance of baptism as an outward expression of faith and discipleship.

These differences in beliefs and doctrines shaped the worship practices among Puritans and Protestants. While both groups sought to follow the teachings of the Bible, their interpretations and emphases led to distinct approaches to salvation and sacraments.

It is important to study and understand these differences in order to appreciate the diversity within the Christian faith and seek a deeper understanding of God’s word.

Worship Practices

Worship practices of Puritans and Protestants reflect their distinct interpretations and emphases on biblical teachings. Both groups share a commitment to worshiping God, but they differ in their rituals and their impact on the community.

The Puritans, guided by their belief in simplicity and adherence to biblical practices, sought to remove any rituals not explicitly mentioned in the Bible. They held worship services characterized by plainness, focusing primarily on preaching and prayer. As the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 14:26, ‘What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.’ The Puritans believed in the importance of congregational participation and the edification of the church through the sharing of spiritual gifts.

Protestants, on the other hand, embraced a wider range of rituals in their worship services. They incorporated music, liturgy, and sacraments to create a sense of awe and reverence. As the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 95:6, ‘Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.’ This verse reflects the Protestant belief in the physical act of worship as a way to engage the senses and show reverence to God. The use of rituals helped to create a communal experience, reinforcing the bonds of the congregation.

To illustrate the impact of these worship practices, let us turn to the story of the Israelites in the book of Exodus. After their deliverance from Egypt, Moses led the people in worship, and they responded with a powerful declaration in Exodus 15:2, ‘The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.’ This story shows the communal aspect of worship, as the Israelites came together to praise and give thanks to God for His deliverance.

Role of the Church

One important aspect to consider when examining the role of the church is its influence on the community. The church, through its hierarchical structure, provides guidance, support, and a sense of belonging to its members. As it is written in Ephesians 4:11-12, ‘So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.’ The church hierarchy, with its ordained clergy and religious leaders, administers sacraments and rituals that are central to the church’s teachings and traditions.

These sacraments and rituals, such as baptism, communion, and marriage, serve as important markers of faith and provide spiritual nourishment to the community. In Matthew 28:19, Jesus instructs his disciples, ‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’ Baptism symbolizes the initiation into the Christian faith and signifies the cleansing of sins.

Communion, also known as the Lord’s Supper, is a significant sacrament that commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with his disciples. As mentioned in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, ‘For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

Marriage, as defined in the Bible, is a sacred union between a man and a woman. In Ephesians 5:31-32, it states, ‘For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church.’ Marriage serves as a reflection of the relationship between Christ and the church, emphasizing the importance of commitment, love, and unity.

These sacraments and rituals not only strengthen individuals’ faith but also offer opportunities for individuals to connect with the divine and foster a sense of unity among believers. As it is written in 1 Corinthians 12:27, ‘Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.’

Furthermore, the church’s role extends beyond its internal functioning to shape and influence society at large. It helps instill moral values, provide social services, and advocate for justice and equality. In Micah 6:8, it is stated, ‘He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’ The church, as a representative of God’s teachings, has a responsibility to promote justice, mercy, and humility within the community.

By actively engaging with the community, the church plays a significant role in shaping societal norms and values. As it is written in Matthew 5:13-14, ‘You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.’ The church is called to be a positive influence in the world and to bring light and flavor to the lives of those around them.

Influence on Society

The influence of the church on society can be seen through its promotion of moral values, provision of social services, and advocacy for justice and equality.

The church, guided by relevant facts and quotes from the Bible, plays a crucial role in shaping the values and behavior of individuals within a community. For example, in the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), Jesus teaches the importance of loving your neighbor as yourself and helping those in need, regardless of their background or circumstances. This story serves as a reminder to individuals to act with compassion and kindness towards others, creating a harmonious society.

In addition to promoting moral values, the church also provides various social services inspired by biblical teachings. In James 1:27, it states, ‘Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.’ This verse highlights the church’s commitment to caring for the marginalized and vulnerable members of society. Through initiatives such as education, healthcare, and support for the marginalized, the church contributes to the well-being and upliftment of the entire community.

Furthermore, the church advocates for justice and equality, drawing inspiration from biblical principles. In Proverbs 31:8-9, it says, ‘Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.’ These verses emphasize the church’s responsibility to fight against social injustices and strive for a more equitable society. The church serves as a voice for the voiceless and works towards creating a just society where everyone is treated with dignity and respect.

Through its cultural influence and commitment to social welfare, the church contributes to the betterment and development of society. The Bible serves as a guide for moral values, social services, and advocacy for justice and equality. By incorporating relevant stories and teachings from the Bible, the church offers a deep and meaningful understanding of its influence on society.

Paul King

I post written versions of my powerful sermons exploring topics like prayer, praise, biblical truths, and more expressions of faith. My church has a deeply spiritual culture, which I try to convey through vivid storytelling and applications in our everyday life. I spread the Good Word with lots of conviction and passion.